Right after the attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, Donald Trump did something bizarre. He spoke the truth. Appearing on Fox and Friends, the GOP presidential frontrunner declared that, “This all happened because frankly there is no assimilation.”
OK, Trump’s comment wasn’t entirely true. The attacks are also likely related to the fact that Belgium is participating in the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. ISIS said so when it claimed responsibility. And terrorism scholars have shown that the group doesn’t attack Western targets at random. It targets countries—in monstrous and utterly unjustifiable acts of murder—that are fighting it militarily in the Middle East.
Still, Trump’s point about assimilation was important. If many European countries struggle to integrate their Muslim immigrants, Belgium does a particularly poor job. The unemployment rate for Belgians of North and sub-Saharan African descent is between 40 and 50 percent. Last year, the BBC reported that of Antwerp’s 2,600 police officers, only 22 are non-white. In 2011, Belgium became the first country in Europe to ban the veil nationwide.
In an essay last year, the Nigerian-born writer Chika Unigwe, who lived for many years in Belgium, noted that even non-white people born there are often described as “foreigners.” She concluded that, “Assimilation, for a Belgian with non-European roots, is a near-impossible task.”